Ian Millhiser Explains How the Supreme Court May Have Helped Make It Possible for Police to Kill By Chokehold

720px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Supreme_Court.svgBy Elaine Magliaro

Ian Millhiser has an interesting article over at ThinkProgress titled How The Supreme Court Helped Make It Possible For Police To Kill By Chokehold. His article tells the story of an African-American man named Adolph Lyons who “was choked out by police in 1976 shortly after he was pulled over for driving with a broken taillight.” Millhiser provides information about the 1983 Supreme Court case named City of Los Angeles v. Lyons. The court ruling in that case stated that Lyons did not have the right to seek an injunction against the LAPD from using such maneuvers as the chokehold “because it was unlikely the chokehold would ever be used on him again.”

Millhiser:

An African-American man was stopped by police because he committed a minor offense. Soon, four officers confronted him with their guns drawn. The cops ordered him to stand facing his car, to spread his legs, and to put his hands on top of his head. Shortly after the man briefly lowered his hands and complained that a key ring he had in his hands was causing him pain, an officer placed him in a chokehold. The man eventually passed out. When he awoke, he was facedown on the ground. His pants were soiled with his own urine and feces. And he was spitting up blood and dirt.

These are not the facts of the Eric Garner case, a man who recently died after a New York police officer placed him in a chokehold. These are the facts of a 1983 Supreme Court case named City of Los Angeles v. Lyons. The victim in that case, a black man named Adolph Lyons, was choked out by police in 1976 shortly after he was pulled over for driving with a broken taillight. Yet the justices’ decision in Lyons likely played a role in allowing police chokeholds to continue to this day. At the very least, Lyons made it much, much harder for victims of these chokeholds to ensure that other people were not victimized in the future.

Millhiser said that Lyons was just one of a number of individuals who “the Los Angeles police targeted with a chokehold, often with fatal results.” Millhiser said that according to Erwin Chemerinsky’s book The Case Against the Supreme Court, Lyons discovered that “sixteen people died after being choked by an LAPD officer, almost all of whom were black men.”

Millhiser:

When police Chief Daryl Gates was asked why almost all of these fatal chokeholds involved African Americans, Gates replied that the “veins or arteries of blacks do not open up as fast as they do in normal people.”

Millhiser continued by saying that Adolph Lyons’s story “and the case that bears his name is also the story of how arcane legal doctrines can reshape decades of police practices.” He noted that Lyons was a 5-4 decision. Millhiser wrote, “If just one more justice had sided with Mr. Lyons, it may have enabled the courts to prevent cases like Garner’s from ever happening.”

Click here to read Ian Millhiser’s article How The Supreme Court Helped Make It Possible For Police To Kill By Chokehold.

SOURCES

How The Supreme Court Helped Make It Possible For Police To Kill By Chokehold (ThinkProgress)

1983 City of Los Angeles v Lyons (Grinnel)

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22 Responses to Ian Millhiser Explains How the Supreme Court May Have Helped Make It Possible for Police to Kill By Chokehold

  1. Anonymously Yours says:

    Any restraint that causes or could cause harm to an individual should be illegal. The facts make this a bad case law precedent.

  2. rafflaw says:

    It is a sad reality that the life of a black man is worth so little in the eyes of too many police officers!

  3. Wow, Elaine. I wasn’t familiar with the Lyons case. What AY and raff said. Bad law all the way around.

  4. eniobob says:

    ” “because it was unlikely the chokehold would ever be used on him again.”

    How do you respond to a statement like that in this situation ?Insulting ones intelligence maybe ?

  5. po says:

    Yep, systematic!

  6. gbk says:

    “Gates replied that the “veins or arteries of blacks do not open up as fast as they do in normal people.”

    That explains everything. Fuck, I love science!

  7. Mike Spindell says:

    In my own life I’ve heard comments from many people decrying the response to many of these incidents by People of Color and others as being uncivilized and unseemly. If one takes the broad range of the experience of people of color (I use that term to include Latinos and Native Americans) in this country, the attacks, the oppression, the killings and the stifling of economic opportunity, the only rational conclusion can be to praise the amazing restraint they have shown in the face of adversity.

  8. bron98 says:

    gbk:

    I dont think that is science.

  9. bron98 says:

    How is the mauling? Not infected, I hope.

  10. gbk says:

    Bron,

    Hobbling is good. Stitches have been opened up so that raw scrubs can be performed twice daily, as the antibiotics weren’t cutting it by their lonesome. I love chewing wood!

  11. bron98 says:

    I am not defending choke holds or Gates but 4 whites also died out of the 16 who were subdued with choke holds. Diabetes could have played a role in their deaths.

  12. Elaine M. says:

    bron,

    No one–black or white–should die because he/she was put in a chokehold by a police officer.

  13. bron98 says:

    gbk:

    That sounds horrible, I hope it isnt a large area.

    I use a product called SKS, it is potasium iodide solution and it will kill anything although it burns like a mother f’er. My uncle, a vet, used to get me to gargle with lugol’s solution (also iodine based) when I would get a sore throat. He used it for surgery prep as well. Good stuff. Mix that with your soap. I dont think it burns like the SKS but test it first.

    I hope you mend quickly.

  14. bron98 says:

    Elaine:

    I agree, they shouldnt be used.

  15. The video shows the guy outting his hands up and the coos then taking him to the groud.

    In homeless Kelly Thomas (Fullerton Ca), officer put on latex gloves, while Thomas was peacefully sitting down for several minutes.

    Then the officer turned and said “I,m going to f%#@ You up with these..as he showed his fists to Kelly Thomad.

    They best him eith six police, tased until batteries ran out, then turned the tazer into a hammer and fractured him to the point of brain dead.

    All the while Kelly wad crying “Dad..Dad”

    Who was a retired L A county Sheriff

  16. Kelly,s dad (who I help his charity), turned down the near million dollars from the City attorney who said

    You want more? Your son wasnt a rocket scientist…

    Result was.. of the trial

    Not Guilty

  17. blouise says:

    Excellent find, Elaine.

  18. Elaine M. says:

    Thurgood Marshall Blasted Police for Killing Black Men With Chokeholds
    Thirty years before the NYPD and Eric Garner, the Supreme Court justice took on the LAPD.
    —By Dave Gilson | Thu Dec. 4, 2014 3:30 PM EST
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/supreme-court-police-chokehold-garner

    Excerpt:
    Although the city instructs its officers that use of a chokehold does not constitute deadly force, since 1975 no less than 16 persons have died following the use of a chokehold by an LAPD police officer. Twelve have been Negro males […]

    It is undisputed that chokeholds pose a high and unpredictable risk of serious injury or death. Chokeholds are intended to bring a subject under control by causing pain and rendering him unconscious. Depending on the position of the officer’s arm and the force applied, the victim’s voluntary or involuntary reaction, and his state of health, an officer may inadvertently crush the victim’s larynx, trachea, or hyoid. The result may be death caused by either cardiac arrest or asphyxiation. An LAPD officer described the reaction of a person to being choked as “do[ing] the chicken,” in reference apparently to the reactions of a chicken when its neck is wrung. The victim experiences extreme pain. His face turns blue as he is deprived of oxygen, he goes into spasmodic convulsions, his eyes roll back, his body wriggles, his feet kick up and down, and his arms move about wildly[…]

    The training given LAPD officers provides additional revealing evidence of the city’s chokehold policy. Officer Speer testified that in instructing officers concerning the use of force, the LAPD does not distinguish between felony and misdemeanor suspects. Moreover, the officers are taught to maintain the chokehold until the suspect goes limp, despite substantial evidence that the application of a chokehold invariably induces a “flight or flee” syndrome, producing an involuntary struggle by the victim which can easily be misinterpreted by the officer as willful resistance that must be overcome by prolonging the chokehold and increasing the force applied. In addition, officers are instructed that the chokeholds can be safely deployed for up to three or four minutes. Robert Jarvis, the city’s expert who has taught at the Los Angeles Police Academy for the past 12 years, admitted that officers are never told that the bar-arm control can cause death if applied for just two seconds. Of the nine deaths for which evidence was submitted to the District Court, the average duration of the choke where specified was approximately 40 seconds.

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